This week I was really excited to sample the much anticipated 2020 batch of Frantoi extra virgin olive oil.
Frantoi only offers new season olive oil for 8 weeks of the year. This is to give the maximum health benefits and enjoyment window of their oil. They claim that:
‘once you have tasted oils of this quality, there’s no turning back’
As a big fan of extra virgin olive oil, I was keen to see if this really was the case.
I was also really interested to chat with Frantoi founder, Elizabeth, and to learn more about the family run company, whose founders hailed from London and set out on a foodie adventure to Italy.
Moving to Italy from London
Frantoi was founded by Londoners Elizabeth and Kasimi Berger. In 2013 the couple left their corporate careers behind – Elizabeth as Marketing Director of Champagne Bollinger and Kasimir working in emerging technology platforms – in search of the highest quality extra virgin olive iil and a life in Italy.
Their journey began at Marco Viola’s door in Umbria. They were travelling around the region when they came across Viola olive oil in a restaurant in Montefiascone. They were both blown away by the quality and intensity – it was unlike anything they had ever tasted before. So they decided to take a detour and find out where Viola came from. Driving up to the unassuming frantoio in S.Eraclio di Foligno, they knocked on the door. They scrambled together all the Lire they had and bought two bottles of Viola’s oil. They then spent the next 15 years seeking olive oil of a similar quality but never found anything as good.
Years later, when they moved to Tuscany with their young children, their mission began: to seek out the very best extra virgin olive oils in the country, produced by artisans who own their own trees and own mill and therefore completely control the quality.
Putting extra virgin olive oil centre stage
Elizabeth has applied her expert knowledge of wine to olive oil. She has identified different flavours from different cultivars that are indigenous to the various regions of Italy and paired them with different foods.
Elizabeth and Kasimi describe themselves as having an ‘insatiable interest in good food’. They also love sharing their passion and the oils they have selected.
Frantoi’s mission is to change the way we buy our extra virgin olive oil by sending it directly from the mill in Italy immediately after it has been pressed. This guarantees the provenance, freshness and quality.
They also believe that we should know where our olive oil comes from: the place, the grower and the year.
It’s not simply the olive oil that Frantoi want to get right; they care hugely about the people they work with. They ensure all materials used for packaging and marketing purposes are sustainably sourced and recycled where possible. This is also a standard they expect from each olive oil producer. And they believe that respect for people and for our environment is essential.
The olive oil that I from Frantoi was truly AMAZING. And I don’t say that lightly. I was married in Italy and we spent a lot of time sampling olive oil to use as our wedding favours and this olive oil possibly even surpassed our wedding batch!
The bottle of Frantoi extra virgin olive oil that I received was from the Gregori family farm, a grower in the central Italian region of Le Marche.
I love olive oil that is almost green in colour. The Lea oil from the Gregori farm carries that gorgeous olive green colour. It combines a delicious pepperiness with a bitter nuttiness. Heaven.
How to choose your olive oil
Elizabeth says that:
If there’s one thing I can tell you about Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it’s that seasonality is key. The Olive harvest in Italy begins during October and the oils are typically ready to be enjoyed from the beginning of December. If you have ever tasted Olive Oil when it has just been pressed, you will be familiar with the vivid colour, bright aromas and the peppery kick it gives you at the back of your throat. These are positive attributes, indicative of high antioxidant content and should be celebrated!
There are a number of important factors to keep in mind when buying extra virgin olive oil to ensure the best quality and highest antioxidant content.
Elizabeth provides the following tips:
This will be written on the front or back label. Extra virgin olive oil is freshly pressed juice and therefore spoils with time. Try to consume your EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) as close to the harvest date as possible and keep in mind that it has a shelf life of 18 months from harvest.
The flavour of your oil is indicative of its quality. You should be able to identify bright, clean aromas, a fruity character, perhaps some vegetable flavours (artichoke, green bean and tomato leaf are commonly used as descriptors for EVOO for example) and to detect a decisive pepperiness in the back of your throat.
The origin and therefore the cultivars grown there influence the flavour, so it makes a difference. If you really want to keep an eye on the quality of your EVOO, it’s worth finding out who has made it, whether they own their own groves and how they farm them, whether they own their own mill and are totally in control of the pressing process, hygiene and environmental impact. Family owned businesses that focus their entire work efforts on the production of Olive Oil tend to offer the greatest attention to their craft.
Dark glass and small bottles
Many people love the idea of buying good EVOO in a tin can and then decanting it as needed at home in to a clear glass bottle so you can see the lovely green gold hues. In fact, that’s one of the worst things you could do. Once open, a bottle or can begins a journey of oxidation, reducing the quality of the oil. The best way to preserve the quality is to buy in 500ml dark glass bottles that are non-refillable.
The olive cultivars
Rather like grape varieties for wine, olive cultivars impact the flavour profile of your oil significantly and therefore different oils have greater suitability to certain other ingredients. Cooler climate cultivars such as Casaliva (grown around Lake Garda in Northern Italy) are delicate in flavour and in this case suited well to lettuce based salads and fresh water fish. From Central Italy, the Frantoio and Moraiolo cultivars have a more decisive peppery flavour and therefore work well with grains, pulses and red meat. The aromatic oils of Southern Italy and Sicily are great with seafood and with raw food and the luxuriant oils of Puglia are a wonderful butter substitute and therefore great over cooked vegetables.
How to store it
EVOO is sensitive to light and heat, rather like wine, so should not be stored next to your stove. It’s best to keep it where the temperature is fairly constant, so in a pantry or cupboard works well or in a cooler corner of the kitchen.
Buying Frantoi extra virgin olive oil and online tasting sessions
Frantoi ships new season Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the top press houses in Italy once a year, directly after the harvest. To get involved with their 2020 offer, please visit www.frantoi.org before 1 December.
They are also hosting a series of online group tastings of sensational new season extra virgin olive oil from Italy in December.
- How to select the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- How EVOO is made
- What is an olive cultivar and how to find the one you like the most
- Which EVOOs work best with which other ingredients
- How to discern a faulty EVOO
- Why EVOO is so good for your health
Each participant receives 5 x 500ml bottles of Frantoi’s very finest selection from 5 regions in Italy.
Session must be booked by 1 December and last approx. 1 hour. Tasting sessions will be held from 7 – 23 December. Cost per participant (inclusive of 6 bottles of EVOO): €195.00 (EU & UK), €235.00 (USA, CA, NO & CH)
To book: www.frantoi.org/the-frantoi-tasting-experience or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A favourite recipe
Pappa al Pomodoro is quintessential Tuscan peasant food that you can find on every table during the late summer and early autumn. It makes a for a perfect fresh and flavoursome starter.
Ingredients for 4 people
1 kg very ripe tomatoes
1 medium white onion, chopped thinly
2 gloves of garlic, thinly sliced
200 grams stale bread (crusts cut off), shredded into small cubes
Fresh ricotta cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Blanche the tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds, then transfer to a bowl with cold water. Peel the skins away, cut into quarters. Mouli them if you have one, or alternatively press the tomatoes through a fine sieve.
Gently heat the olive oil and add the garlic and onions, cooking until soft and translucent. Always keep the heat low, so not to burn the onions or the garlic.
Add the tomato juice and pulp, salt and pepper and cook on a gentle heat for about 30 minutes.
Take off the heat and add the bread, mashing it as much as you can until fully incorporated.
Set aside for 30 minutes, season to taste and serve with a dollop of fresh ricotta and some basil leaves and a generous drizzle of EVOO.
The oil we use: An aromatic oil such as Primo Organic from Frantoi Cutrera works perfectly with Pappa con Pomodoro